Heppner defense

Heppner’s Jason Rea (62) takes down Stanfield running back Enrique Arellano (23) during their Nov. 1, 2019, game in Heppner. The Mustangs will host Bandon at 1 p.m. Saturday in the first round of the 2A state playoffs.

HEPPNER — The Heppner Mustangs are 9-0 this season. They have outscored opponents 387-66, and have recorded five shutouts.

Not exactly the team one wants to face in the first round of the state football playoffs, but the Bandon Tigers will give it a go.

“They aren’t scary, but they are a solid football team,” Tigers coach Aaron Freitag said. “Eleven of them, 11 of us on the field at the same time. In the playoffs, you can’t overlook anyone, especially a team like Heppner. We have played Coquille and Toledo, and they are right up there with Heppner.”

The third-ranked Mustangs will host the Tigers (5-4) at 1 p.m. Saturday in the first round of the 2A playoffs at the Morrow County Fairgrounds.

“I don’t think people should look at their record and judge them,” Heppner coach Greg Grant said of the Tigers. “They had their top lineman and quarterback out at the beginning of the year. They are going to be very tough.”

Grant, who has been at Heppner for 30 years, has led his team to the state playoffs every year since 1997.

“It’s bonus football,” Grant said. “Last year doesn’t do you a lot of good. You work all year and you hope it pays off; you hope you are ready. We are always excited.”

Freitag, who played high school ball at Bandon, is in his third year coaching his alma mater. He’s taken the Tigers to the playoffs each year, and admits he is looking forward to going up against a veteran like Grant.

“He has a lot of experience,” Freitag said. “It’s fun for me to go up against coaches like that, who have that experience. They could throw anything at us.”

The Tigers have a few weapons of their own in quarterback Braydon Freitag, and running backs Cooper Lang, Reef Berry, Wyatt Dyer and Sean White.

“We are a mix,” coach Freitag said. “Probably 50/50. It depends on our opponent where we attack. We are a steady mix of both.”

The Mustangs have an arsenal of weapons, including senior Mason Lehman, who does a little bit of everything, including returning punts and kickoffs for touchdowns.

“We are aware of him,” Freitag said.

Quarterback Jayden Wilson leads the Mustangs’ offense. Last week against Stanfield, he threw for 170 yards and four touchdown, and ran for 60 yards and one score.

Blake Wolters also is a threat out of the backfield, while Jason Rea and Gavin Hanna-Robinson are stalwarts on defense.

“We hope to use what gives us the best matchup, based on what our strengths are,” Grant said. “We will see what matches up the best.”

The one thing Grant is confident in is support from the Heppner community.

“That’s what’s great about coaching in a small community,” Grant said. “They look forward to the playoffs. There will be a lot of support.”

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